Long Tail boat races are held regularly in the Thai provinces, many owners and teams travel to compete in the competitions - the winnings are status and a trophy and a prize money that just above covers the cost of the fuel and transport - First prize for both 150cc single cylinder and twin cylinder unlimited cc at this competition was B2000 - about 29 pounds sterling or $54 US . Many of the competitors are owners/workers of the small engineering shops scattered around the provinces that maintain, fabricate and repair farming equipment. Success at the boat races brings more custom to the shop, after all if you can make a 150cc motorcycle engine hammer down a canal at 100mph then you have a reasonable measure of the shops ability with engines and fabrication.
Usually the only parts purchased is the propeller and the engine - the rest is made in house or refurbished from old domestic longtails.
As you can see from this picture, these are small craft - without the man sat in it you would easily mistake it for a large scale model boat
Trim is constantly adjusted by altering the angle of the tail - props are usually over pitched and run semi submerged. Slow speed steering is achieved by yawing the tail, high speed steering is done by leaning and shifting the body weight in the desired direction
You will notice from the video clips that a considerable amount of left shift (leaning to the left side of the boat) is required to counter the props torque and tendency to track to the right at speed.
These boats will flip at the slightest error in balance or if it hits the wake of another boat - a spectacular sight at speed, the pilot usually barrel rolls with his boat, the boat digs in and snaps in two and the pilot skims across the water skiing style.
No safety measures are taken or considered. This weekend resulted in one serious injury when a mechanic testing a boat drove it full speed into the pier. He was pulled out of the water unconscious with deep wounds to his head. After being rushed to hospital in the back of a pickup truck (normal) it was later found out he had been drinking heavily all morning and was only just able to stagger into the boat to test the engine.
เรือสองตอน ruea song dorn, ruea harng yao
These Thai style long boats are a tradition in Thailand - very difficult to manage and require good teamwork to row - needless to say the boats are so narrow that they are very easily tipped and with so little freeboard the sink with the smallest waves.
Top Prize money is more that the longtail boats at B6000 or 86 pounds sterling ($162 US) but it is a team effort
As usual with all Thai boats the bow has a spiritual significance and offerings are made to the spirits as the boat is launched and it is adorned with flower garlands
Before the main race various smaller warm up events take place - the one that caught my eye was barrel racing.
Thank you to AimRC, evorcu and 108boat .com for the info, photgraphs and video links used on parts of this page
Latest Update is from Aug 2009 - Ang Nam Chaimongkol in Samut Sakorn (70km outside Bangkok)
Confirmed highest speed of the day (by radar gun) was 165 kph (102 mph)
The three types of boat raced at Samut Sakorn in August 2009 where:
Ruea Song Torn - Stepped Hydroplane with raised rear sides
Ruea Gradort - No step.
Ruea Gratoey - In-between the other two, no step or raised rear sides
Ruea (Roo ah) = Boat
Song Torn = Two Parts (step)
Gradort = Jump
Gratoey or Gatoey = Ladyboy or Hermaphrodite